What are the chances of being attacked by wildlife in each Canadian province
Covering roughly 9.98 million square kilometers (3.85 million square miles), Canada is a diverse country with a climate ranging from continental to subarctic and arctic, and its plains, mountains, boreal forests, and tundras are home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are vast, isolated swathes of land that are sparsely populated, and where seeing a bear or a moose is just as likely as seeing another human being.
In consequence, dangerous encounters with wild animals are not uncommon, and they often occur in remote places. Wildlife sightings and animal attacks have increased over the past decade, as more people now go to traditional wildlife habitats, both to camp and to live. In November, a grizzly bear entered a cabin in the B.C. village of Iskut, where it ransacked the freezer and the rest of the food storage. The owner, a senior woman, was lucky to escape, but according to authorities, human-grizzly conflicts are on the rise in the province.
As Canadians love hiking in national parks and reserves during weekends, the team at SportingPedia decided to check how likely wild animal attacks are in each of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories.
How Common Are Animal Attacks in Each Province?
Attacks by wild animals vary widely across the 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada. The reason for this are both the geographical and the biodiversity, along with the fact that the country’s population is mainly concentrated along the Canada-U.S. border, while northern areas such as the Nunavut territory are sparsely populated, meaning the likelihood of a human encountering a black bear there is not the same as it is in British Columbia, for example.
1 in 1,144 people attacked
Although roughly 80 percent of Albertans live in urban areas, close encounters with wildlife are not uncommon. The animal that is most likely to attack or approach you is the elk, and while they might not seem that threatening, elk are large mammals, sometimes weighing as much as 500 kg. They could be aggressive and charge without warning, especially during their calving season in Spring, or in late summer during the mating season.
Grizzly attacks also occur in Alberta – more often than in any other Canadian province. Although bears tend to avoid human contact, they often try to scare humans off by bluff charging, jaw-popping, and swatting the ground. And just like the black bear that is also found in Alberta, the brown bear or grizzly is extremely aggressive when protecting its cubs.
1 in 17,798 people attacked
Every year, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service receives reports of more than 25,000 human-wildlife conflicts, most of which involve bears. The province is home to thousands of black and brown bears, along with wolves, cougars, coyotes, moose, and deer. According to statistics by Parks Canada, the most common attack is by grizzly bears, although there have also been several incidents involving wolves and black bears. Most of these wild animals roam the forests early in the morning and in the evening, so avoiding hikes at this particular time of the day is a good idea.
1 in 198,048 people attacked
While Manitoba has prairies in the south and tundra in the north, forests make up almost half of its territory, and it is home to various large animals such as moose, white-tailed deer, black bears, cougars, lynx, and wolves. In the north, especially around Hudson Bay and the town of Churchill, you can see plenty of polar bears, too. And while many people go to the “polar bear capital of the world” specifically to watch these majestic animals, it is quite a dangerous hobby if you are not prepared.
During October and November, polar bears can be seen roaming the streets of Churchill as they look for food. Attacks are not uncommon, and according to authorities, encounters now occur more often as a result of climate change. Compared to a decade or two ago, the ice melts earlier in the summer and forms later in the fall, forcing many polar bears to spend more time on dry land. This, of course, increases the chances of them meeting and attacking people.
1 in 96,951 people attacked
Animal attacks are not very common in New Brunswick, although black bears, bobcats, lynx, and white-tailed deer can be spotted in the wild. The most common encounter with wildlife here is hitting a moose with your car. Authorities warn that roughly 400 motorists are involved in moose-vehicle crashes every year. Apart from this, the animal most likely to attack you in New Brunswick is the black bear.
Newfoundland and Labrador
1 in 46,414 people attacked
Similarly to New Brunswick, there are not many animal attacks across Labrador or the island of Newfoundland. Moose-vehicle collisions, however, can be very dangerous for both the animal and those traveling in the car. Over the past 12 years, Parks Canada has recorded a handful of encounters with wildlife, including black bears and gulls. According to media reports, there have also been attacks by moose and polar bears.
1 in 1,081 people attacked
The Northwest Territories is not among the most dangerous places in Canada, and wild animal attacks are rare. There is one critical exception, however, and that involves the black bear. Over the past 12 years, 27 encounters with black bears have been reported by Parks Canada, not including those incidents where the animal has damaged property only, but referring to direct encounters with humans. It should be noted that the NWT is home not only to black bears, but also to grizzly and polar bears, which are even more dangerous.
1 in 121,173 people attacked
Despite its small size, Nova Scotia is home to a wide range of mammals and birds, most of which are not likely to attack or even approach a human. However, black bears could be aggressive and extremely dangerous, although they are a rare sight in the wild. Other potentially dangerous species in Nova Scotia are gray wolves, coyotes, and, of course, moose and deer.
1 in 11,981 people attacked
There are numerous places all over Nunavut where you can watch wildlife, including some of the world’s most unique animals in their natural habitat. Walrus, narwhal, Greenland sharks, harp seals, and killer whales inhabit the waters of Nunavut, along with polar bears, which are the animals most likely to attack you. Wolves and wolverines can also be quite aggressive, but caribou and moose are a more common sight.
1 in 374,318 people attacked
Ontario does not sound like a particularly dangerous place, as most wild animals in the province are quite harmless. However, attacks do occur, most commonly by black bears and rattlesnakes. The massasauga rattlesnake is the only venomous snake in Ontario, and although it tends to avoid humans, it will attack and bite if it perceives you as a threat. Camping tourists may unknowingly walk into its home range and encounter one – if bitten, experts warn never to attempt to suck the venom out or place a tourniquet. Instead, you should lie down, wash the area that has been bitten, and call 911.
Prince Edward Island
1 in 10,289 people attacked
There have not been many dangerous encounters with wildlife on Prince Edward Island in the past two decades for one sad reason – most large species are now extinct due to hunting or habitat disruption. The island used to be home to caribou, moose, wolf, and bear, but these animals are no longer found there. Red foxes and coyotes still live on the island, but the species most likely to attack you is the wasp.
1 in 293,167 people attacked
There is a great variety of animals found in Quebec, but the most dangerous one is the black bear. With a healthy population of around 70,000 living across the province, black bears are among the most common large mammals you would encounter in the wild. Moose, caribou, and white-tailed deer also inhabit the province, along with timber wolf, seals, and whales.
1 in 7,213 people attacked
The majority of Canada’s most dangerous animals could be found in Saskatchewan, with the exception of those species that live in the polar regions. Common dangerous wildlife encounters include those with black and brown bears, wolves, plains bison, cougars, and coyotes. The province is home to most Canadian ungulates, including moose, caribou, mule and white-tailed deer, and the prairie antelope (pronghorn). However, you are most likely to be attacked, followed, or approached by elk in the Saskatchewan wild.
1 in 10,058 people attacked
Not many animal attacks have been reported in the Yukon for the past 10 to 20 years, although there are plenty of dangerous animals you could encounter while hiking. The reason is very simple – the region is sparsely populated, and most people live in or around Whitehorse. Attacks may not be common, but they do occur, especially in small rural communities or in remote areas where the only inhabitants are trappers or hunters. Bears are the most feared animals, with grizzly attacks being the most common.
Canada’s Most Dangerous Wild Animals
Wild animals tend to avoid humans, and will rarely approach them unless they consider a person a direct threat. However, they sometimes enter developed areas to find food and are especially attracted by improperly stored garbage. Consequently, the majority of accidents involving wildlife are actually attacks on property rather than on humans or pets.
Moose or Deer
People will sometimes hit moose or deer with their vehicles, and while this encounter is almost certainly fatal for the animal, the collision can also be life-threatening for those traveling in the car. That’s why moose is considered to be the most dangerous animal in Canada, with roughly 500 road accidents occurring each year as a result of moose collisions with motor vehicles.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, are the largest cat species in North America, and despite their size and daunting appearance, they are mostly reclusive and avoid humans. It is estimated that around 20 to 30 attacks by cougars occur annually, very few of which are fatal. The animal, however, has been known to snatch small domestic animals and even children.
Black Bears and Grizzly Bears
Along with cougars, bears are some of the most dangerous and aggressive animals you can come across when hiking or camping. Their habitat is wide and covers most of Canada, which is why attacks can occur almost anywhere, even in populated areas. Of course, you are less likely to cross paths with a bear in settlements and urban areas than in the wild.
Most attacks involve black bears due to their robust population – an estimated 500,000 individuals according to the Fur Institute of Canada. The majority of attacks – both by black bears and grizzly bears (or brown bear), are reported in Alberta.
Polar bears are also extremely dangerous if you find yourself in their habitat. Luckily, their territories are limited to the northern parts of the country where the arctic cold keeps most of us away, but there is no need to go to the most remote, unpopulated areas to see a polar bear as they are a common sight all over Nunavut, as well as in Churchill, Manitoba. Of course, Churchill is probably one of the most remote and isolated towns in Canada. Several attacks are reported every year in the northern town, including two fatal incidents back in 1968 and 1983.
According to the International Wolf Center, Canada has the second largest population of gray wolves in the world after Russia – some 60,000 exist in practically all provinces and territories. Dogs and wolves are the same species; they are genetically identical, and although this is the animal that the domestic dog has descended from, it is more fearsome, more aggressive, and, well, it is wild.
This is why it is not a good idea to approach a wolf in the wild, especially considering that wolves travel in packs. Two to twenty wolves usually rest, travel, and hunt together, making them especially dangerous when they are looking for food. There have also been multiple instances of wolves attacking and preying on pets and even children in Canada.
Coyotes are the smaller cousins of wolves and although they are not particularly dangerous to humans, they do attack when looking for food or perceive you as a threat. They are known to hunt for pets as well, and can be found all over Canada, including in urban areas where food and shelter are easily available.
No official statistics about attacks by wild animals in all of Canada are currently available, nor is data that includes all incidents in each of the provinces and territories. For this reason, the team at SportingPedia analyzed datasets for human-wildlife coexistence incidents in selected national parks over a twelve-year period from 2010 through 2021. These have been released by Parks Canada Agency through the Open Government Portal. We also looked at incidents that were covered by local or national media, where most journalists tend to focus on fatal attacks or on incidents that caused severe injuries. Due to this fact, in research based only on media reports, fatal animal attacks tend to be overrepresented.